In the simplest form, a title search identifies who owns the property. This may obvious, but surprisingly, sometimes the party selling the home may not actually have the legal right to do so, at least on paper. For example, in the case of a married couple, the property might be in only one spouse’s name. Another example would be a property held in trust or probate; it could take some paperwork to correct title to allow a sale.
A title search also uncovers any existing liens on the property. This would include any current mortgages and may find old debt or unreleased loans. Items which must be paid off or removed prior to sale. Finally, a title search will list any deed restrictions, such as easements or property restrictions.
If the title search does find any issues, the seller will need to remove them before the closing can occur. Once the sale is closed, title insurance ensures the new owner against any title issues that were not discovered during the search.
No one wants unexpected delays during closing. A seller can help mitigate title issues by running a preliminary title search at the time of listing. This gives them plenty of time to address any outstanding title issues before it costs buyer and seller valuable time in delays.